The Colts officially begin training camp today, and they’ll do it in a much different way than they have in previous years. As with all other sports, COVID-19 has altered the landscape entirely of how teams can conduct “business as usual” to the point that this year’s camp will be new territory for everyone.
To begin with, the 2020 Colts Training Camp will not take place at the Grand Park Sports campus in Westfield as it typically does. The location is a great spot for fans and media alike to get a first look at the team as they gear up for another season.
Instead, the Colts will make their season’s start at their facility at West 56th street. There will be no fan or media presence, and the team will be starting almost exclusively with conditioning and work in small groups.
With no preseason games to prep for, the team can afford to retool the way they space out their time, and they can put all their effort into prepping for that first game, an important one, against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While that may be a relatively normal kind of football goal, the pathway to get there will be anything but normal. The team has had to undergo major changes to how training camp runs in order to create a safe and efficient environment for the team to function in during camp and going forward.
Everyone will be required to wear masks in the facility, and will wear contact tracers which allow them to monitor everyone’s locations throughout the day and help determine who has been in contact with who in the event that someone contracts COVID-19. They’ve created better socially distanced space in the facility, including in the weight room and meeting rooms, to allow everyone the ability to do what they need to without unnecessary contact.
Colts trainer Dave Hammer has been delegated the task of organizing the team’s efforts to ready the facility for the purposes of regular use during the season, and he’s worked with the team’s nutritionist to work out ways to get individually sealed meals to the players to limit exposure potential there. All of this is happening above and beyond the normal cleaning and sanitizing that you might expect to take place at any major facility of this type.
Perhaps the greatest responsibility will fall on the players. Without creating a “bubble” to exist in as sports like the NBA have done, the Colts as a roster will have to decide to take precautions on their own to avoid infection. How they conduct themselves throughout the season as well as at the outset at camp will determine a lot of how effective they can be at avoiding serious outbreaks. There is a great deal of personal responsibility that will play a role in how this works out. This may be one area where the Colts have an advantage over some teams.
In the Chris Ballard era, they have been consistently hunting for high-character, team leader types who are willing to put football above everything. Those are the kind of guys you can count on to be team-first and to avoid unnecessary situations that could expose them or the team to COVID-19. While that hardly means the team is immune, it certainly could be an advantage over other less cohesive organizations.
Ballard talked about the importance of that character with the media last week:
“There’s gonna have to be that peer pressure from within that locker room to know if you do something outside this building that puts the team at risk, that’s a selfish move.”
What may come out of this training camp is a team that is uniquely prepared for the kinds of adversity that the 2020 season has to offer. The Colts are primed for a big season, and even if we can’t yet get eyeballs on everyone, it is exciting to think that in some capacity, however small, football is back.